hostile, misogynistic everyday life

I know a lot of good men who, despite their best efforts, don’t really understand what it’s like to be a woman when it comes to personal safety. And, while I generally move through life assuming the best of people, in most respects, I also know (based on life experience) I need to be on guard when it comes to men.

On twitter today I experienced a solid example of how the littlest things can turn upsetting when it comes to interacting with men. It’s also an example of an exchange that could have many other explanations that don’t include the potential for violence. Therefore, it’s a good example of the kinds of everyday interactions women face all the time, at every turn, where we need to make the calculation, if I respond this way, will they get angry (which, offline, could lead to violence) enough that it will be scary? or, if I respond this other way, will it be worse?

Here are the series of exchanges.

This man followed me on twitter a while ago. I followed him back for a while, even though it seemed from his tweets we probably didn’t have a lot in common. I enjoy interacting with people who have different points of view.

Our interactions were cordial, even kind.

Should I “heart” the tweet, indicating I saw it? Sure. I think I even replied with a thank you, or something like that.

Then, a few days ago, there was this exchange:

The “fishnetspreferred” hashtag made me uncomfortable. But, y’know, it’s twitter, the wide-open Internet and we’re all adults here. At this point I start weighing my potential responses, if I don’t “heart” the tweet, will he take it badly? (too many men would.) If I heart it will that only encourage him to move farther along in that direction? In my experience that’d be pretty likely, so, no, I decided not to heart the tweet. I also decided to stop following him, taking the chance of sending a quiet message that, no, I didn’t like the tweet.

I didn’t spend many minutes on this decision, but I did have to think about it and decide which of the possible outcomes would be least annoying (or, in the worst case scenario, least scary or unsafe).

That shouldn’t be a big deal, right? So, his joke kinda fell flat because I didn’t heart it, who really cares? (I also thought, maybe he’ll just think I never saw it and it really won’t be an issue, or maybe, if I’m really lucky, he just won’t care…)

Then, today, I got another tweet from him. I want to say in advance that I’m fully aware the change in tone could be entirely unrelated to my not hearting his “flirtatious” (?) tweet. But I also want to say that it has been this 48 year old woman’s experience that men can get hostile really quickly when their advances are rebuffed. So, take this next tweet as you will:

If he hadn’t had that hostile first line, I think it could have been an interesting discussion. But, no, the hostility and misogyny of the tweet was clear.  I tweeted two responses. One, that I never called her stupid. And, two, that I was going to block him because his anger made me feel unsafe.

I’ll say again that I recognize there are all kinds of ways of reading this series of exchanges. But, in my experience (and that counts beyond just something “anecdotal” because I know I’m not alone in my experiences), this kind of escalation into hostility is typical if I don’t smile or laugh along with jokes that make me uncomfortable. (And if I smile or laugh, they’ll continue and get worse.)

I’m sharing this in the hopes that some men I know might continue learning how tricky it is being a woman out there in the world. If we women dare not smile and “encourage,” we end up being called “an unholy, judgmental snatch” (the choice of language for his insult is another indication about his lack of respect for women).

going too fast

Something that hasn’t yet gotten all the way better as I recover from this concussion is my ability to multi-task. One thing that happens now, that I consider a big improvement, is I notice when things are going too fast and I (usually) have the forethought to pause.

If I look at social media and I’m hit with the #metoo conversations, I might need to do some emotional work not to lapse into the darkness of being a survivor of sexual abuse/assault/harassment. That requires brain space. Then, if a friend texts and I reply = more brain. Add to that the tea kettle is about to squeal and I’ve got to get to work asap before a conference call and I get the overwhelmed sense that everything is going too fast.

When I get this overwhelmed feeling I recognize my brain isn’t like it used to be. Before the concussion, I would easily drop one or two things out of the top level of awareness. I might store something away to consider later, or I might not reply immediately to a text.

Since the concussion, if too much is happening at once, I lose the ability to easily prioritize. My triage skills are still too weak to manage many things at once.

Of course, we know that it’s a myth that multi-tasking is an efficient method of functioning in the world. But it’s also a requirement for functioning in reality.

In my speech therapy at Bayside Neuro Rehab, I will be doing some work to improve my multi-tasking skills. I’m looking forward to that. I also know that it will be to my advantage if I maintain an awareness of when things are going too fast, or are just too much. Even when (if?) I return to being able to manage (juggle) many things at once, it will improve my life if I can remember to regularly pause and breathe and center myself. Pausing is required now if I want my brain to work right, but I think my spiritual health will be stronger if I develop a good habit of going slower when slower is an option.

addendum to my last post (post-concussion syndrome continues)

Feeling so much better, related to my concussion, as I reported in yesterday’s post, today I undertook what in the past would have been a joyful adventure of creation (and $ savings): meal planning and cooking for the week. It took longer than it would have in the past, but, I planned meals for the next week and a half, and I started some of the cooking.

I just found out, however, that after a few hours of this prep work, I’m not able to look at a recipe and know where to start. It’s hard to explain what it’s like, when my brain doesn’t quite work right. I can, if I go slowly, read it and understand it. It would require effort, however, to gather together the background thoughts that make it easy to know what steps come first. For example, as I’m typing this, I can tell you that gathering the ingredients together would be the first step. But it took some thinking to get to that point. Instead of “just knowing” what normally would be nearly intuitive, I have to stop and think and now I’m getting a headache. The post-concussion syndrome symptoms are still affecting my everyday life. It’s frustrating and discouraging.

But, as each of the therapists at the rehab center always emphasized: it’s better than it was. Even just a couple months ago, what I did today wouldn’t have been possible.

I’ll take a break and come back to it after I’ve rested my eyes and brain.

still blog-floundering, what’s up with me lately

My friend Paula says we should just blog our hearts out (my paraphrasing, with great liberties). I used to write lots and lots and post it on here. But, that was before the days of “everyone has facebook.” I’m still not sure what I want to do here, though I know I want to lean less on facebook.

Moments ago, I posted some photos on facebook, and it felt weird. I used to share photos of our family’s activities all the time; it was super-fun! And, it’s true that most people I know use facebook. So, a lot of people I care about will see the photos of me and my daughters and our Christmas. Posting photos of my daughters on here feels strange, mostly. What is this blog for, then? I’m still not sure. Maybe just little updates?

I’ll give that a try, again…

I’m still recovering from the concussion I sustained in June, but I’m doing really well. I’ve “graduated” so-to-speak from occupational therapy, physical therapy, and soon will finish up with speech therapy and talk (emotional) therapy. I’ll continue with osteopathic manipulative treatment (“OMT”) and acupuncture for a while now, though at my next appointments I’ll be discussing with the providers how long they think I should continue treatments. (By the way, OMT is amaaaaaaazing and I recommend it highly!) My symptoms (headaches, a certain kind of confused thinking, trouble prioritizing, inability to multi-task) are much less frequent. When they come back, I know what to do to get better and a return to mostly-normal happens pretty quickly. For example, 5-10 minutes of eye and brain rest can get me thinking clearly and just about headache free in most cases.

I’ve stopped writing for the Bangor Daily News, which is a serious disappointment. I was told by someone on staff that opinion columnists who didn’t get enough clicks weren’t getting their contracts renewed. But, I’ve gotten a new regular writing gig about which I’ll share details as soon as my first piece comes out (yay!).

Finances are still quite tight, though bridge loans from my parents after the concussion have made it a little less stressful. Now that I’m able to work on the computer for much longer periods of time without causing terrible concussion symptoms, I should be back to work at the level where I’m not terrified every month about whether or not I’ll be able to pay my bills. It’s not close to how it was when I started writing about being “newly poor,” but it’s closer to it than I’d like. I’m perennially grateful my parents were in a position to provide the bridge loans to me. What I’ve been through with this concussion could have ended much worse if it wasn’t for my lucky birth circumstances.

As I think about and ruminate over how to use this blog, I’m thinking about my father’s annual Christmas letter. Each year, it’s truly a work of art. (There’s an excerpt from this past Christmas’ letter on his blog, here.) Maybe writing to an unknown audience as I do on this blog could still be an intimate space, I could write stuff like this but maybe rather than train of thought, I could put some more writing effort into it.

But, oh, I don’t know what I’ll do here.

In any case, thanks for reading this far! I hope to make posts worth your time in the future. :-)

me by the treet

one of my many #MeToo experiences (the need for consent)

What’s been bothering me the most about some of the memories I have of being sexually assaulted is how at the time I didn’t seem to understand that what had happened was really bad. I knew in my gut that something was wrong — my behavior, my “acting out” that followed shows me I knew something was wrong, but that’s in hindsight. At the time that I was hurt, I didn’t seem to realize I deserved better.

For example, in the fall of my sophomore year I went with a (girl) friend to meet some boys in a fort they had built out of plywood scraps in the woods. We all got drunk. This was my first time ever drinking; what I remember most was gulping tequila and saying, “the faster you drink it, the less you feel it.”

At some point in the night, I was lying on the floor, slumped up against the wall. One boy was on my left, one boy was on my right. I don’t remember much about it except for this: they moved my head back and forth to take turns kissing me; they talked about what they wanted to do, they dared each other to do things; they had my shirt open (I remember the navy blue laciness of my bra and the pastel stripes of my shirt); they were touching me and I was mostly not awake for it. I don’t know what happened in great detail, though I suspect they did more than open my shirt and kiss me. I do know there is not a chance I was capable of saying yes to what they were doing. Later that night, my friend (the girl) also was trying to kiss me (at this point, I was sitting up on the edge of the two level floor) and I remember pushing her away and saying no. The boys (there were three) were sort of cheering her on, telling her to do things to me.

What has been so disturbing to me as I reflect on this experience is how after that night, one of the boys became my “boyfriend,” the other was “one of my best friends,” and the girl continued to be one of my very best friends. We all talked and laughed together like nothing bad had happened.

What I’m coming to terms with this week is that me now sees how wrong it was, but me then didn’t. Me now wants to make sure that all boys and girls today recognize the importance of consent. Informed, aware, and enthusiastic consent should be the minimum requirement in all sexual acts.

The me then had an idea that what happened wasn’t okay, I just didn’t know how to process it. Once I was no longer too drunk to talk, I didn’t say, “What you two did to me was awful, you are awful, you took advantage of me and it was disgusting and you should never do that again to anyone, ever.” I pretended like nothing bothered me. Part of me shut down. I desperately needed to believe that I couldn’t be hurt by anyone ever again.

The same “shutting down” process happened with each assault, those that came before and those that followed. My behavior as a young girl showed how I was frantically trying to figure out how to make my way in the world when people who were supposed to be safe, to be my friends would actually hurt me when I was at my most vulnerable.

My hope for my daughters is that we can create a world where people grow up understanding the importance of consent. That’s why I have no patience for people suggesting we do anything other than believe all the women who tell us, “He hurt me.” There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that sexual activities should only ever happen with enthusiastic consent — and that means taking into consideration power dynamics like employment. When in doubt, don’t sexualize anything. It’s a simple philosophy, but it’s a good one.